Louisiana Lawmakers Prepare to Address Gov. Edwards' Vetoes
Lawmakers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are expected to convene in the coming days to deliberate on vetoes issued by Governor John Bel Edwards. As of now, Governor Edwards has vetoed Senate Bill 196, known as SB196, and 19 line items from the budget supplemental appropriations bill, House Bill 560.
SB196, sponsored by Senator Barrow Peacock from Bossier City, aimed to enhance transparency in the legal system by mandating the disclosure of third-party litigation financing. Senator Peacock expressed concerns over hedge funds, equity firms, and foreign funds financing lawsuits on a contingency basis, effectively using the civil justice system as an investment. He argued that such agreements could lead to conflicts of interest between clients and their attorneys. Senator Peacock cited research demonstrating that these arrangements incentivize prolonged lawsuits and reduce the amount of settlement funds obtained by claimants. Governor Edwards justified his veto of SB196 by stating that the bill "only requires plaintiffs to unilaterally disclose their commercial legal financing arrangements." In his veto message, he pointed out that if true transparency was the goal, the legislation should have mandated disclosure from all parties involved. He further contended that the proposed structure of the bill aimed to deter commercial legal finance companies from operating in Louisiana.
The bill had received approval in the House with a vote of 55-28 and secured a Senate concurrence vote of 30-8.
In addition to SB196, Governor Edwards vetoed 19 line items, totaling approximately $2.3 million, from the budget bill. These line items were associated with local projects in the districts of eight House members who opposed raising the state's spending cap. While the legislature eventually passed a measure to exceed the threshold by $1.65 billion, Governor Edwards remained firm in his decision to punish those who opposed it.
The affected projects include initiatives in the home districts of Republican Representatives Raymond Crews, Dodie Horton, Sherman Mack, Larry Frieman, Julie Emerson, Johnathan Goudeau, Danny McCormick, and Gabe Firment. Furthermore, Governor Edwards vetoed a project in Pollock, which was in the district of Republican Representative Gabe Firment, who had voted in favor of lifting the spending cap but sponsored legislation prohibiting gender transitions for minors—an action the governor intends to veto.
Another line-item veto targeted the funding allocated to the American Rose Society, which had connections to Republican Representative Alan Seabaugh. Representative Seabaugh, who voted against the spending cap, is married to the former director of the society.
House Bill 560, the budget supplemental appropriations bill, received overwhelming support in both chambers, with a House vote of 93-9 and a Senate vote of 38-1. One of the bills that Governor Edwards plans to veto is HB 648, introduced by Representative Gabe Firment. This bill is one of three proposals related to transgender issues that the governor has expressed his intent to reject. The other two bills are HB 81 by Representative Raymond Crews, aiming to prohibit school employees from using students' preferred pronouns without parental consent, and HB 466 by Representative Dodie Horton, seeking to ban discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.